Everything (and the kitchen sink)
The 135-fluid-ounce Kirkland Signature
environmentally friendly clear liquid dish
soap is tough on grease and concentrated to
work with just one squirt for a sink full of
dishes. It is made from natural fragrances,
kind-to-your-hands coconut and palm oils,
and sugar-based surfactants (soil removers).
The value couldn’t be better at 5. 9 cents per
ounce; other brands found in grocery and
natural-foods stores sell at 13 to 36 cents per
ounce. In comparative third-party tests, this
product cleans up on many leading brands.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature environmentally friendly ready-to-use multipurpose
cleaner is also formulated from natural plant
oils. It comes in a 32-ounce spray bottle with
a 170-ounce refill (both containers are recyclable), and also shines brightly in independent third-party tests. It’s priced at about 4
cents per ounce; other brands range from 13
to 27 cents per ounce.
Finally, there’s the Kirkland Signature
125-ounce environmentally friendly powdered
automatic dishwashing detergent, with savings as much as 60 percent over other top
national brands and formulated with no
polymers, chlorine or phosphate.
Phosphate is already illegal in laundry
products in the United States. Several states
are enacting similar anti-phosphate laws for
automatic dishwashing detergent that will
take effect starting in July 2010.
What’s disheartening is a current trend
among some “green” brands to heavily promote phosphate-free products while failing to
mention their switch to Earth-unfriendly
polymers and the continued use of chlorine
and/or petroleum-based cleaning agents.
Curious about other suspicious green
cleaner claims, I track down Costco’s corporate
sundries buyer, Deb Belcourt. She provides a
wealth of well-documented information.
I learn there are no federal performance
standards governing eco-claims for cleaning
products. In fact, manufacturers are not
required to and don’t always list every element
used. They choose instead to list only the
greenest active ingredients and not reveal the
rest. Costco lists all active ingredients.
Deb shakes her head at brands claiming
they are 100 percent natural, since petroleum
is a naturally occurring substance, as well as at
those that proclaim biodegradability but offer
The good news for members is that
Costco follows the biodegradability classification system of the highly regarded
Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development. This 50-year-old international organization requires cleaning
agents to degrade extremely rapidly. Each of
the four Kirkland Signature products biode-grade at a rate of 70 percent in 28 days after
functioning in the cleaning cycle.
With so much wiggle room in the industry, it’s imperative that consumers purchase
green cleaning products manufactured by
highly reputable companies known for their
solid business practices and willingness to
open their doors and books to rigorous independent scrutiny.
Costco’s manufacturer is the largest
producer of private-label laundry detergents
and fabric softeners in North America. Their
track record, with more than 25 years as a
trustworthy Costco supplier, is exceptional.
Analysis, testing, retesting and the proofing
of all claims is rigorous and continuous at
production facilities as well as by Costco
buyers and a highly regarded independent
Deb shares, “Our goal is to minimize
the carbon footprint throughout the whole
process, from seed to product, usage, bio-degradation and return to the environment, and replenishment. We’ve proven
you can build environmentally sound
cleaning products at an excellent value
without performance tradeoffs or hiding
anything under the rug.”
My head fills with many impressive Costco
1. The biodegradable, biorenewable plant-based cleaning agents are derived from
naturally occurring oils found in palm and
coconut products purchased only from
certified-sustainable plantations where
deforestation and irreversible damage to
the ecosystem are forbidden.
2. Besides no phosphate, dyes, chlorine or
polymers, there are no toxic chemicals,
such as formaldehyde, in the formulations.
3. Energy, transportation and handling requirements needed in production are minimized, with bottles blown, labels printed
and formulas made on an as-needed basis
in one location.
4. Nothing is wasted; imperfect production is
5. All of the stocking and shipping materials
for these Kirkland Signature products—
pallet, paperboard, ink, coatings and
glue—are 100 percent recyclable.
Queried about member reaction, Deb
grins and reports, “From the moment this
program came out of the Costco box, the
response has been phenomenal.”
Costco’s doing its part to set a new standard in affordable green cleaning products.
Now all that’s left is for the rest of us to clean
up our act. C
Pat’s Tes t Kitchen
CONDUCTING MY OWN test, I filled my
laundry tub with cold water, a scoopful of
garden dirt and six new, white Costco hand
towels. After a three-hour soak, each was
machine-washed separately in cold water,
using one of six different eco-friendly laundry detergents, then line-dried.
I then called on my sensitive-nosed
hubby to compare each (without brand
knowledge) for cost, ingredients, cleaning
performance and aroma. Towel F (Costco’s)
was his favorite … and mine. (These are
prices from January 1,2009; prices might
vary by region.)
A. Planet: $11.99 for 100 fluid ounces or
25 loads ( 4 ounces per load). Price per
wash: 47. 9 cents. First listed ingredients: no way to know if ingredients are
listed in order, but coconut-oil-based
cleaners and ethoxylated alcohol are
noted. Comments: worked well but is
very expensive, no harsh formula or
B. Seventh Generation: $6.99 for 32
ounces or 20 loads. Price per wash: 34. 9
cents. First listed ingredients: a low-foaming blend of naturally derived cleaning agents (coconut-derived surfactants,
glycerin). Comments: pricey, and formula
gave off a bad scent of chlorine as well
as other unidentifiable chemicals.
C. Mountain Green: $9.99 for 32 ounces
or 32 loads. Price per wash: 31. 2 cents.
First listed ingredient: purified water.
Comments: a lot to pay for water, initial odor of bleach stayed with towel
D. Ecos: $11.99 for 100 ounces or 50 loads.
Price per wash: 17. 9 cents. First listed
ingredients: 100 percent natural anionic
Comments: strong lavender scent.
E. Trader Joe’s Liquid Laundry: $4.49
for 53 ounces or 26. 5 loads. Price per
wash: 16. 9 cents. First listed ingredients: plant-based surfactants (actual
plants not listed). Comments: initial
whiff cleaned out my sinuses, dried
towel gave off a very strong odor of
perfume and bleach.
F. Kirkland Signature. $14.59 for 170 fluid
ounces or 110 loads. Price per wash:
13. 3 cents. First listed ingredients: naturally derived cleansing agents (
palm-and/or coconut-based surfactants).
Comments: worked well and easy to
measure accurately with the pour tap, no
harsh formula or after-wash scent.—PV